Ethnic Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Mohammed E. Ahrari | Go to book overview

4
African-American Influence on U.S. Foreign Policy Toward South Africa

Ronald W. Walters

The 27 million African-Americans in the United States, constituting 13 percent of its population, are one of the largest and most dynamic of its minorities. Indeed, any complete history of the country reveals, at many points, that the reaction of either whites or blacks to the subordinate role/ status of the black population was a central issue in the life of the nation. Thus the forward progress of blacks has involved their leaders and allies taking advantage of whatever opportunities were provided by the social system to forge favorable social policy, and there have been many demonstrable domestic successes.

A perennial question that has been asked, however, is why blacks have had such notable difficulty influencing foreign policy to the same degree, especially since they are obviously one of America's hyphenated groups, which is, in the words of Barry Hughes, a "political interest group (which shares) some common attitudes and orientation toward the political process." 1

Quite logically, the question divides itself into speculations of whether the answer to the problem resides with blacks and their policy interests or with the foreign policymaking system. At least two salient dimensions are involved in the tension between these two factors: group opinion (interests) and group influence (mobilization styles), which James Rosenau said work together because "influence cannot be operative without the prior transmission of opinion, whereas the latter can occur independently of the former." 2 Therefore, by organizing a study around this dichotomy, we view both factors independently as well as in their linkage effect. Both factors, then, may be said to roughly conform to the simple system affecting policymaking by the activities of interest formation and policy mobilization, resulting in policy formation and implementation. 3

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